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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Amsterdam, NY ,

Caroline Murray/Recorder staff Mayfield resident Carol Schery, left, shown helping her 7-year-old granddaughter Arianna Ruberti pick blueberries Friday at Meadowlark Farms.

Conbeer's Farm owner Kathryn Conbeer shown eating a raspberry she just picked Friday.

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Local berry growers aren't blue about this year's crop

Saturday, August 16, 2014 - Updated: 4:08 AM

By CAROLINE MURRAY

caroline.murray@recordernews.com

State berry specialists are bragging about the tremendous blueberry crop the spring has produced this year.

Blueberry picking season began mid-July and will end within the next couple of weeks -- depending on the variation.

About 900-acres of land across New York State are dedicated to growing blueberry bushes.

In Broadalbin, Meadowlark Farms was crawling with blueberry connoisseurs Friday, with buckets in their hands and blueberry juice dribbling down their chins.

"This is probably the best season we have had on record," Matt Myers said as he rang up a couple of blueberry pickers.

Myers' family has been involved in the blueberry business since 1999, when his grandparents purchased the farm.

After his grandfather passed away, Myers' parents took over the establishment and pledged to keep the business in the family.

Myers' grandmother, Dottie Hollis, said picking berries should be a family affair, too.

Hollis said berry-picking is a way to make memories with kids, and start a tradition everyone can enjoy.

"That is one thing we have always stressed," Hollis said.

Meadowlark Farms has about 33-acres of land, eight of which is dedicated to blueberries.

This year, Myers said 4,056 blueberry plants bloomed, and was quite satisfied with the product.

He attributes the incredible harvest to a farming technique applied on the crop last year.

During the spring, Myers said the family cut the dead branches off the bush, which tricks the plant into thinking they are injured. By pruning the crop, he said the plant worked extra hard to produce blueberries the following year.

"The year after, it gets great berries," Myers said.

Myers said the farm is currently harvesting seven different types of blueberries, and expects the season to end by September.

Laura McDermott, a berry specialist in Eastern New York, said the more variety of blueberries available on a farm, the longer a picking season will last.

She said some New York farmers will grow six to 12 types of berries, to ensure a long-lasting harvest.

"The blueberry crop was wonderful this year," said McDermott. "We are about two-thirds of the way through."

McDermott said blueberry farmers produced a great crop last summer as well. She did not predict the same this year because of the past winter season.

She observed damage to the "wood," or branch, of the blueberry bushes, but McDermott said this did not affect the berries.

According to the U.S Highbush Blueberry Council, 38 states grow blueberries and 10 account for roughly 98 percent of U.S. commercial production including Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Georgia, New Jersey, California, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi and Indiana.

Cornell University berry extension support specialist Cathy Heidenreich said New York State has increased their blueberry production over the last ten years.

"We certainly can't compete with New Jersey or the Pacific Northwest, but the blueberry production has been on the upswing," Heidenreich said.

Heidenreich said most blueberries grown in state are sold locally at either farmers markets or at you-pick farms.

The variety of blueberries fluctuate from grower to grower, and some berry farmers have already moved on to their next project -- fall raspberries.

At Conbeer's Farm in the town of Mohawk, fall raspberries have already started to show, and blueberry season is over.

Owner Kathryn Conbeer said the farm grew a ton of early- and mid-season blueberries this year, but the you-pick production has already ended.

She said the farm grew about 500 plants this year, but next year will plant different varieties so they have a longer lasting season.

About 200-acres of land makes up the Conbeer farm, and about 10 -acres harvests berries.

Her daughter Teresa Conbeer said she saw an uptick in you-pick customers this year.

"Must have been word of mouth," she said.

Conbeer said she has seen people travel from all over -- even people from different countries -- who enjoy the simple experience of picking their own berries.

Kathryn Conbeer said they have two types of fall raspberries ready for picking; Polana and Carolina.

McDermott said once again, she had doubts about the raspberry crop due to the harsh winter, but was pleasantly surprised by the turnout.

"The fall raspberries look absolutely fantastic, haven't seen such a good crop in many years," McDermott said.

     

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